Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Self and Society : What the world needs now is anthroposophy
Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, June 9, 1922:
When the conversation turns to what is lacking in society today, there is scarcely anyone who does not have something really significant to contribute, from his own particular position in life. My purpose here, however, is not to draw up a list of all the various deficiencies that a survey would reveal. It is rather to direct attention to some of the antecedents of a phenomenon that has, quite justifiably, attracted comment on many sides and has led a large part of mankind into a mood of extraordinary pessimism and hopelessness.
One of the most extreme expressions of this hopelessness came from a man of whom it might perhaps have been least expected — a man, moreover, who belonged to a period for which such an opinion cannot help striking us as something out of the ordinary. In one of his last books, the influential art-historian Herman Grimm, who did not live to experience the most fearful war in history, but died at the turn of the century, makes this surprising statement: “When we survey the international situation today, and observe, with the `mind's eye' I would say, how the various nations of the civilized world behave to one another, how they attack one another, and how they hold within them the seeds of further conflicts, then we feel ready to set a date for mass suicide, since we cannot envisage where all these things that bring men and nations into conflict, strife and combat, are to lead, if not to the utter collapse of civilization.” I regard this statement as striking precisely because it comes from Herman Grimm — since his philosophy of life was in itself a joyous one; throughout his life, he kept his eyes fixed on all the things that can elevate mankind and that exist in man as creative and productive forces. It is striking, moreover, that he did not make this statement under the influence of the sense of gloom that was to be experienced in the years just before the outbreak of the Great War, or during it. His observation sprang entirely from the spirit of the nineteenth century, at the end of which it was made. Nothing that has happened since then seems likely in any way to cushion the impact on us of such a statement.
Yet at the same time it can never be the business of mankind to get bogged down in mere hopelessness; we must rather be on the look-out for anything that can lead to revival, to reconstruction, to a new dawn. This being so, it is necessary for us to look more deeply into the causes of the extraordinarily difficult situation that has gradually developed inside European civilization. Even if we believe that these causes can only be economic ones, we shall still have to look to the spiritual life of modern civilization for the main reason underlying this economic decline.
In my lectures here, I have pointed out more than once how our present temper of soul — together with all the soul-powers we can acquire at present — is affected by historical forces, and to understand these we have to go back a long way in human development. Specifically, I pointed out yesterday how at the threshold of the spiritual life of the West, looked at historically, there stands a figure who still has one eye on Asia, whilst the other is already directed at the perspectives of Europe. I mean Plato.
When we examine Plato's social theories, they appear to our modern consciousness extraordinarily alien in many respects. We find that he sees the ideal social system in the creation of a community even at the expense of the development of individualhuman beings who have been born into this earthly life. Plato thinks it quite feasible that children who appear unfit for life should simply be abandoned, so that they may not occupy a place in the community and thus disturb the social organism. He also manages to regard as an ideal social organism one in which only members of a certain caste enjoy the full privileges of citizenship. Apart from the fact that slavery appears quite natural to him, he would also grant those responsible for trade and commerce only a precarious position within his social system. All those who are not fixed within this system by virtue of having been born — by right, as he sees it — into its fabric, are not in fact completely accepted into the organization. Much else might be said, too, on the question: How does Plato's ideal relate to the individual human being? And here, from the standpoint of modern consciousness, we must conclude that there is present as yet little understanding of this human individuality. Attention is still directed entirely to the community, which is seen as primary. The man who is to live in it is regarded as secondary. His life is accepted as justified only in so far as he can match the social ideal that exists outside his own personality.
To discover what led Plato to this concept of community, we must look once more at Oriental civilization. And when we do so, we realize how, in the last analysis, the historical development of Europe's spiritual life is like a small peninsula jutting out from a great continent.
When we look at Asia, we find that there the idea of community is the primary one, and that Plato simply took it over from the East. To what has been said already about this idea, one thing must be added, if the social situation throughout the world is to be illuminated.
When we come to examine the basic character of spiritual life in the Orient, we find that it embraced a humanity quite different in type from the Europeans of later civilization. In many psychic and spiritual matters, indeed, we can say that there prevailed in Asia a high level of civilization, one to which many Europeans, even, long to return. I have already mentioned the often-quoted expression: Light comes from the East. What is most striking of all, however, is that these men of different type did not have the feature that has been typical of Europeans since they first began to play a civilized part in the world's development. What we observe there in Asia is a subdued sense of self, a sense of personality that is still quiescent in the depths of the soul. The European's awareness of personality is not as yet found in Asia. If on the other hand this high level of Asian civilization is adopted by an individual who still lacks this sense of personality — and it is a civilization suited for adoption by a human community — then he experiences it as in a dream, without sense of personality.
Obviously, in an age when human individuality had not yet attained its full development, communities were more receptive to and capable of a high level of culture than were individuals. In communal life, human capacities for absorbing this civilization increased not simply in an arithmetical but in a geometrical progression. Meanwhile, the particular ideal that Oriental civilization had set before itself, as it gradually passed over into Europe, was minted by European spirits in a simple formula — the Apolline dictum: “Know thyself!”
We can, in a sense, regard the entire Ancient East as developing towards the realization in Greece, as the ultimate intention of Oriental self-less civilization, of that sentence: “Know thyself!” — a sentence which has since survived as a spiritual and cultural motto to direct mankind. Yet we can also see, there in the East, that it is regarded as desirable, for the attainment of a higher stage of development in mankind, to penetrate to the self after all. On the spiritual side, I have already indicated this in characterizing yoga. On the social side, it reveals itself when we look at the theories current in the East with regard to leadership of the masses. Everywhere we find that the man who was the teacher and the leader was at the same time, in the spiritual sphere, the priest, but also at the same time the healer. We find in the East an intimate connection between all that mankind sought as knowledge and as higher spiritual life, on the one hand, and healing, on the other. For early Oriental civilization, the doctor cannot be separated from the teacher and the priest.
This is, of course, connected with the fact that Oriental civilization was dominated by a feeling of universal human guilt. This feeling introduces something pathological into human development, so that the cognitive process itself, and indeed every effort to reach a higher spirituality, is regarded as having the function of healing man as nature made him. Education to a higher spirituality was also healing, because man in his natural state and thus uneducated was regarded as a being who stood in need of healing. Connected with this were the early Oriental mysteries.
The cult of mysteries sought to achieve, in institutions that were, I would say, church and school and source of social impulses combined, the development of the individual to a higher spiritual life. They did this in such a way that, as I have already indicated in my previous lectures, religion, art and science were combined: in performing the ritual actions, men were religious beings; and here what mattered was not the articles of faith, still less the dogmas, that occupied the soul, but the fact that the individual was participating in a socially organized rite, so that man's approach to the divine was made principally through sacrifice and ritual act. Yet the ritual act and its foundations in turn involved an aesthetic element. And this combination of aesthetic and religious elements gave to knowledge its original form.
The man who was to attain this unified triad of religion, art and science, however, had not merely to accept something that represented a step forward in his development; he had also to undergo a complete transformation as a man, a kind of rebirth.
The description of the preparations that such a student of the higher spiritual life had to undertake makes it clear that he had consciously to undergo a kind of death. He experienced, that is, something that set him apart from life in the ordinary world, as death sets men apart from this life. Then, when he had left behind everything in his inner experience that appertained to earthly life, he would, after passing through death, experience the spiritual world in a complete rebirth. This is the old religious form of catharsis, the purification of man. A new man was to be born inside the old. Things that man can so experience in the world as to arouse in him passions and emotions, desires and appetites, notions that are of this world — all these he was to experience within the mysteries in such a manner that they were left behind and he emerged as one purified of these experiences. Only then, as a man reborn, was he credited with being capable of exerting any social influence on his fellow-men. Even the academic scholarship of our time has quite correctly observed that the surviving remnants of this cult have been of enormous importance for social life, and that the impulses aroused in those who have experienced such a catharsis in these very secret places have exerted the greatest conceivable influence on social life outside. As I say, this is not merely a pronouncement of spiritual science, it is something that even academic scholarship has arrived at. You can see this by looking at Wilamowitz. What we find is that, in Oriental civilization, the aim was to cure man by knowledge and by all the efforts to achieve a spiritual education.
What existed in the East passed over in another form to Greece and thus to Europe, and it has continued to affect Europe to the extent that Greek culture itself has influenced European spiritual life and civilization. Let me mention a point that is not usually emphasized. In his study of Greek tragedy, from which the West has derived so much of artistic importance for its spiritual life, Aristotle produced a description that is usually taken far too much at its face value. People are always quoting the familiar sentence in which Aristotle says that the aim of tragedy is to arouse fear and pity, so that the excitation of these and other emotions shall bring about a purification, or catharsis, of them. In other words, Aristotle is pointing to something in the aesthetic sphere — the effect that tragedy should produce. Armed for the interpretation of Aristotle's dictum, not with academic philology, but with an understanding of Oriental spiritual life — with a knowledge, that is, of its roots in the past — we can interpret what
Aristotle means by pity and fear more extensively than it is usually interpreted. He means in fact, as we come to perceive, that the spectator is brought by tragedy to mental participation in the sorrow, pain and joy of others, and that in this way the spectator in his mental life escapes from the narrow confines that he naturally occupies. Through the contemplation of the suffering of others, there is aroused in the spectator — for here man goes outside his physical existence, if only vicariously — that fear which always arises when a human being is confronted with something that takes him outside himself, and creates in him a transport of faintness and breathlessness. We can say, therefore: Aristotle really means that, in looking at tragedy, man enters a world of feeling that takes him out of himself; that he is overcome by fear; and that a purification or catharsis ensues. In this way he learns to bear what in the natural state he cannot bear; through purification he is strengthened for the sympathetic experience of alien sorrow and alien joy; he is no longer overcome by fear when he has to go outside himself and into social life. In ascribing a function of this kind to tragedy, Aristotle, we perceive quite clearly, is really demonstrating that tragedy also educates man towards a strengthening of his sense of self and his inner security of soul.
I am well aware that to introduce the aesthetic element into social life in this way strikes many people today as a devaluation of art, as if one were trying to attribute some kind of extrinsic purpose to it. Objections of this kind, however, often really betray a certain philistinism, resting as they do on the belief that any attempt to assimilate art into human life as a whole, into all that the human soul can experience, implies its subordination to a merely utilitarian existence. This is not what it meant for the Greeks; it meant rather the inclusion of art in the life that carries man above himself, not just beneath himself into mere utility.
If we can look beyond the mere utility that typifies our time, we shall be able to understand the precise significance of the Greek view of art: that the Greeks saw in tragedy, side by side with its purely artistic aspect, something that brought man face to face with himself, drawing him away from a dream, a half-conscious perception of the world, nearer and nearer to a complete awareness of himself. We may say: in the social sphere, tragedy was certainly intended to make its contribution to the all-important precept: “Man, know thyself!”
If, moreover, from this extension of art into the social sphere we pass on to a consideration of the position of the individual vis-à-vis society, and from this perspective look back at the Orient, we find that, in the mysteries too, what was sought through therapeutic treatment — the rebirth of man as a higher being — represented a strengthening of the sense of self. From an awareness that the soul was not then attuned to a sense of self, and that such a sense still remained to be developed, the mysteries attempted a rebirth in which man emerged to individuality. For this ancient society, therefore, experience of self was really something that had still to be attained. It was seen as a social duty to foster the birth of this sense of self in individuals who could become leaders in the social sphere. Only when we comprehend this can we gain an understanding of the strong sense of community persisting in Plato's ideal state, and of his belief that man is entitled to develop his individuality fully only if he does so through the rebirth that was accessible to the wisdom of the time. This shows that humanity at that time had no awareness of the claims of individuality in the fullest sense.
What grew out of this kind of society in Asia then established itself in Europe, combined with Christianity, passed over into the Middle Ages and even survived here for a long period. The manner of its survival, however, was determined by the fact that the hordes which, mainly from Northern and Central Europe, streamed into this civilization — South European now, but inherited from Asia — were endowed by nature with a strong sense of self. These tribes acquired the important historical task of carrying over what Oriental man had achieved with a still subdued sense of self, into complete self-consciousness and a full sense of self. For the brilliant civilization of the Greeks, “Know thyself!” was still an ideal of human cognition and society. The peoples who descended from the North during the Middle Ages brought with them, as the central feature of their being, this sense of self. It was theirs by nature. Though they lived in groups, they none the less strove to incorporate into their own personality what they absorbed in the cognitive and social sphere. It was in this way, then, that there came to be established the contrast between community life and individual life. The latter only appeared in the course of history, and did so, I would say, with the assistance of man-made institutions.
In thus making its appearance in human development, the sense of self was bound to link up with something else, with which it certainly has an organic connection. Looking back once more at the features of Oriental-Greek civilization even as it appeared to Plato, we are nowadays very much aware that this whole civilization was in fact built on slavery, on the subjugation of large numbers of people. A great deal has been said from various standpoints about the significance of slavery in earlier times, and if we are willing to sift this properly, we shall naturally find a great deal that is significant in it. But the point that above all others is still relevant for our life today is precisely the one that I said has actually received little attention. For community life — and also for the social life which sprang from the mysteries, and for the development of which the Greek regarded his art as providing an impetus — the full significance of human labour within the social order was quite unrealized. In consequence, they had to exclude human labour from their discussion of the ideal image of man.
When we describe Oriental-Greek man, with the dignity that gave him his authority, we are describing something that was in fact constructed over the heads of the masses, who were actually doing the work. The masses merely formed an appendage to the social system, which developed within a society that had not absorbed labour into its being, since it regarded labour and those who performed it as a natural datum. Human society really only began where labour left off. At a higher level, in a higher psychic sense, man experienced something that also finds expression in the world of animals. In their world, the food supply, which with us forms part of the social organization, is provided by nature. The animal does not calculate; it does what it does out of its inmost being; and specialization is unnecessary for animals. Where apparent exceptions occur, they must be regarded as proving the rule. We can therefore say: in transplanting itself to Europe and entering further and further into the demands of individuality, Oriental civilization also took on the task of integrating human labour into the social system. When man's awareness of self is fully wakened, it is quite impossible to exclude labour from that system.
This problem — which did not exist as yet in Greece — became the great social question round which countless battles were fought in Rome. It was felt instinctively that only by integrating labour into the social system can man experience to the full his personality. In this way, however, the entire social organization of humanity took on a different aspect. It has a different appearance in civilized Europe from what it had in civilized Asia. Only by looking back at the development of individuality in Europe shall we understand something of what has repeatedly, and rightly, been emphasized as significant when we come to describe the source of the deficiencies of our time.
It is rightly pointed out here that the specific shape of the social order in our time was actually only decided with the emergence of modern technology and division of labour. It is also pointed out that modern capitalism, for instance, is merely a result of the division of labour. What the traditional teaching of modern Western civilization has to say in this respect, in characterizing division of labour and its consequences in the social deficiencies of our time, is extraordinarily significant. But when something like this is said, and from one point of view rightly said, the unprejudiced observer cannot help looking at, say, ancient Egypt or Ancient Babylon, and observing that these states contained cities of an enormous size, and that these achievements too were only made possible by a division of labour. I was able yesterday to show that, as early as the eleventh century, a kind of Socialism existed in China, yet that similarity of surface features is not what really matters. In the same way, I must point out that division of labour, too, which in modern times has rightly been seen as the central social problem, was also found in earlier epochs of human development; it was in fact what made the Oriental social systems possible, and these in turn have since affected Europe. In Europe, division of labour, after being less common at first, gradually evolved. I would say: division of labour in itself is a repetition of something that also occurred in earlier times; but in the Oriental civilizations it bore the stamp of a society in which individuality was still dormant. The modern division of labour, which makes its appearance along with technology, on the other hand, impinges on a society of men who are now seeking to expand their individuality to the full. Once again, then, the same phenomenon turns out to have a quite different significance in different ages.
For the Oriental social order, the first consideration was thus to allow man to grow clear of social restrictions and of communal life. If he was to move up to a higher spiritual life, man really had to find his individuality. The European of a later age already had this sense of self, and needed to integrate it into the social order. He had to follow precisely the opposite path from that followed in the East.
Everywhere in Europe we find evidence of the difficulty men experience in accommodating their individuality to the social order, whereas at one time the social system had been such that men sought to rescue their individuality from it. This difficulty still faces us on every side today as an underlying social evil.
When, some years ago, I was often called upon to lecture to audiences of working men, I saw a good deal of evidence that there did exist in men's souls this problem of articulating the ego into the general social order. Men are unable to find the way from a highly developed sense of self into the social order. And in attempting repeatedly to show proletarian audiences, for instance, what this way would need to be like — how it would have to be different from the ways that Socialist or Communist agitators commonly offer nowadays — one came across very curious views in the ensuing discussions. They might appear trivial; but a thing is trivial no longer when it provides the motive power for innumerable people in life. Thus, I once attempted to talk about social problems in a working men's club. A man came forward and introduced himself straight away as a cobbler. Naturally, it can be extremely pleasant to hear what such a man thinks; in this case, however, what he was unable to think was much more revealing than what he did think. First of all he set forth, in marked opposition to my own views, his conception of the social order; and then he reiterated that he was a simple cobbler: in the social order that he had outlined, therefore, he could never rise to be a registrar of births, marriages and deaths. Underlying his outlook, however, was the quite definite assumption that he might perfectly well be a Cabinet Minister! This shows the kind of bewilderment that ensues when the question arises: How is the ego, strengthened within spiritual life, to articulate itself into a social order?
In another working men's association (I am giving one or two examples, which could be multiplied indefinitely), someone said: “Oh, we don't really want to be foremen; we don't want to manage the factory; we want to remain what we are, simple workmen; but as such we want all our rights.” Justified as such a statement may be from one point of view, it displays, in the last analysis, no interest in social organization, only an interest in the strongly developed self.
I am well aware that many people today will not consciously admit that this particular discrepancy between the experience of self and the social order lies at the root of many, indeed almost all of our social deficiencies and shortcomings. But anyone who looks at life with unclouded vision cannot escape the conclusion: We have certainly managed to develop the feeling of self, but we cannot connect it with a real insight into man. We say the word “I;” but we do not know how to relate this “I” to a human personality that is fully comprehended and fully self-determining.
We can experience this once again when we come across views that are very much of the present, as opposed to what, on the basis of spiritual science, we regard as necessary for the health of humanity. A leading figure in present-day educational circles once said something very curious to me during a visit to the Waldorf School. I showed our visitor round personally, and explained to him our educational methods and their social significance. I pointed out that, with a sound educational method of this kind, education of the spirit and the soul must be linked with that of the body. Anyone wishing to teach and educate must first of all know the effect of this or that action on the forces of recovery or decline in the human organism, the human body; he must know how the exercise or neglect of memory expresses itself later in life in physical symptoms, and how, simply by treating the life of the soul, we can gradually bring about an improvement in physical ailments. The teacher, I concluded, must certainly understand the body's association with the soul and the spirit in health and sickness. And the reply I got was that, to do this, the teacher would have to be a doctor!
Well, up to a certain point it would indeed be desirable if this were the case. For when we look at our social system, with the difficulty of integrating the self into it, we are reminded once more of what I have touched on today in connection with the civilization of two regions: the Orient, where the doctor was also the teacher and leader of the people; and Greece, where, as I have shown, art had an educative influence. The art of medicine was associated with every aspiration of the spirit, because at that time man was regarded, if only instinctively, as a physical, mental and spiritual whole; in the treatment that was then applied to the soul, forces were brought into play which yielded knowledge for a general therapy of man.
The leaders at that time told themselves: I must attempt to cure man by leading him to true spirituality. To do this, I must bring healing forces to bear on a fairly normal life. Once I understand these forces thoroughly and can follow out their effects, this knowledge will tell me what to do when a man is ill.
From observation of the healthy man, I learn what forces to employ when confronted by the sick man. The sick man is simply one whose organism has deviated further in one direction or the other than it does in everyday life. Knowing how to bestow health on man in his normal state, I also know how to cure him when sick. Knowing which drink, which cordial affords me this or that insight into connections between man and nature — knowing, that is, the effect of a natural product in the sphere of knowledge — I shall also know what effect it has on a sick man, if used in greater strength.
The intimate association of medical art with education and development towards spirituality in general, which was the goal of the Ancient Orient and had an important rôle there, appears once more as a spiritual residuum in the Greek experience of art. Here, the aim is that the soul should be healed through art. Armed with this knowledge, we can still perceive in the use of the word “catharsis” in connection with tragedy how — because the same word was used in connection with the early mysteries, for the complete purification of man on entry to a new life — something of this sense is taken over. We are, however, also reminded that, for Greek doctors in the early period, knowledge and medicine still went together, and that in education, but also in popular culture in general, people saw something on a more spiritual level that was related to medicine, something that in a sense sprang from medicine.
We need to examine these phenomena of a bygone age, if we are to gain a strength of soul such that, when we contemplate the social systems in our own age, we can keep in view the whole man, and also such that, when we meet our fellow-men, we not only unfold a strong sense of self, but also connect this with a perception of the whole man in body, soul and spirit. If by an advance in spiritual science we can do this, there will become available, simply through the temper of soul that ensues, ways and means of integrating this whole man, but also all men, into the social order, thus annexing labour for society in the way that historical evolution in any case makes necessary. For this is what we are still suffering from today: the need to fit labour properly into the social order.
It is true that people often regard labour as something that goes into the article produced, being crystallized in it, so to speak, and giving it its value. Those who look more closely, however, will observe that what matters is not simply that a man should work, devoting to society his physical strength. The important factor in determining price and value is rather how the work fits into social life as a whole. We can certainly conceive of a man doing a job of work that is fundamentally uneconomic in the social order. The man may work hard and may believe that he is entitled to payment for his work; but when his work exists in the context of an inadequate social system, it often does more harm than good. And one ought to examine in this light a great deal of labour within society which, though exhausting, is really worthless. Consider how our literature is constantly accumulating; it has to be printed; a tremendous amount of work is involved in the manufacture of paper, the printing, etc., and then, apart from the tiny proportion that survives, it all has to be pulped once more: work is being done here which, I would say, disappears into thin air. And if you consider how much work has disappeared into thin air during the butchery of the recent war, you will gradually come to see that labour as such cannot lay claim to any absolute value, but derives its value from its contribution to the life of society.
The disease that most affects our age, however, is precisely the lack of this basic capacity to integrate labour into the social organism, taking account of the fact that everything men do, they really do for others. We need to win through to this by learning to integrate our own individual selves into the community. Only by achieving a true understanding between man and man, so that what the other man needs becomes part of our own experience and we can transpose our self into the selves of others, shall we win through to those new social groupings that are not given us by nature, but must be derived from the personality of man.
All our social needs certainly spring from the self. People sense what is lacking in the social order. What we need to find, however, is a new understanding of what human fellowship in body, soul and spirit really means. This is what a social order ought really to be able to bring forth out of the self.
The great battle that is being fought over the division of labour — fought quite differently from the way such battles have ever previously been fought under the influence of human individuality — is what underlies all our social shortcomings. Nowadays, we found associations for production; we participate in them, concerned not with their rôle in the social organism, but with our own personal position — and this is understandable. It is not my aim here to complain, pedantically or otherwise, about human egotism. My aim is to understand something for which there is considerable justification. Without this sense of self, we should not have advanced to human freedom and dignity. The great spiritual advances have been possible only because we have attained this sense of self. But this in turn must also find a way to imaginative identification with others.
There is a great deal of talk nowadays about the necessity of conquering individualism. This is not what matters. The important thing is to find society in man himself. The Oriental had to discover man in society. We have to discover society in man. We can do so only by extending on every side the life of the soul.
That is why I tried, at the close of one of my mystery-plays, to present a scene showing how a man wins through to an inner experience of the different forms of mankind. These differences exist outside us. In society, differentiation is necessary; we must each have our profession. If we find the right bridge between man and man, however, we can experience within us all that is separate in the social world outside — each individual profession. Once this social system comes into being within us, once we can experience the reality of society inside ourselves, we shall be able to follow that opposite way of which I have spoken: the way from the self to the social order. This will also mean, however, that everything connected with the individual — today we can point to labour; in the next two days we shall be looking at capital — is capable of finding its place in human society. In co-operatives, in the formation of trusts and combines, in the trade union movement, everywhere we feel a need to find a way out of the self into association with others. But here precisely is the great struggle of the present day: to enable what exists around us really to take root within us.
As already indicated, there was a time, not so very far behind us — we need only go back to the thirteenth century — when man had a bond with the product of his labour, and the making of every key and every lock gave pleasure, because the maker poured into it something of his own substance. The legacy of an earlier social order still made its mark upon the product. With their individuality as yet not fully awakened, people still accepted society. Since then, individuality has reached its zenith with the advance of technology. In the last analysis, the man of today is often extraordinarily remote from the product of his labour, even when his work lies in the spiritual sphere. What we perform in the outside world needs to take root in us and to link up with our individuality. This, however, will only happen if we develop the life of the soul on every side in the way I have described in the last few days. For if we do develop the life of the soul, our interest in all that has its being around us will be fired once more.
You encounter many people in this purely intellectual age who find their own profession uninteresting. It may have become so, perhaps. There must come a time, once more, when every detail of life becomes of interest. Whereas formerly what was interesting was the nature of objects, in the future the interest will lie in our knowing how our every activity is articulated into the social organization of mankind. Whereas formerly we looked at the product, we shall now look at the man who requires the product. Whereas formerly the product was loved, the love of man and the brotherhood of man will now be able to make their appearance in the soul that has developed, so that men will know the reason for their duties.
All this, however, needs to take hold of the soul before people try to reach an understanding about the particular social deficiencies of our time. From this standpoint, too, we must consider that Europe is still engaged in its battle for human individuality against the forces in its spiritual tradition that continue to flow from Asia — from foundations quite unlike those that exist today, foundations that took root in the souls of men, but at a time when full individuality had not yet been attained.
Thus the present time occupies a position not only between abstract concepts of individuality and community, but also in the centre of something that pervades man's soul and brings every individual human being today into action in defence of his individuality. We are only at the beginning of the road that leads to the discovery of the right relationship between self and community. It is from this fact that the shortcomings of the time, which for this reason I do not need to enumerate, derive.
Perceiving this psychological basis, this spiritual foundation, we shall be able to view in their proper light many of the needs, deficiencies and miseries that confront us in society today. To win our way through to this light, we need courage. Only then shall we know whether the pessimism that Herman Grimm expressed in so extreme a form is justified, and whether people are justified in saying: There remain only forces of decline in
European civilization, one can only be pessimistic, even: The date for mass suicide ought to be fixed.
That is, indeed, the question: whether all the Asiatic features that Europe had to conquer have in fact been conquered, so that after finding itself Europe can now, from the centre of the world's development, also reach an understanding with the East.
It is from a standpoint such as this that we must consider whether what we ought to see is the kind of thing Herman Grimm had in mind, or whether we are not justified in thinking that mankind can still, through the development of what lies dormant in its soul, prove capable of choosing a time when understanding shall be achieved, and that what faces us is not the death of this European civilization, but its rebirth.
Whether and how far this is possible will be examined, at least in outline, in the remaining lectures.